‘Within easy walking distance’

Alan Watts writes in his book, “In My Own Way: An Autobiography:”

Two things amaze me. One is that American bureaucracies cannot tolerate those minor pockets of irregularity that are essential to a free people—little areas where building codes and bluenose laws do not apply, and where adventurous young men and women can try to live without money, and without the routines of offices and factories. The other is the failure of the affluent bourgeoisie to realize that such pockets are a huge economic asset, that the bohemian community is, so to speak, a sort of cultural manure for the perennial fertilization of zones which will, because of their presence, become particularly attractive and valuable. One of the curses of Western industrial culture is the proliferation of “nice residential areas” where no shops or small businesses are permitted, and which require, as their counterparts, business districts for unrelieved commerce, to which one must commute for several miles to ply one’s trade or buy groceries—there to find parking impossible and, in transit, to clog the air with unnecessary gasoline fumes. These “nice residential areas” establish an aesthetic standard of the good life which—though millions buy it—is for me a dreary wasteland in which people are trying to divorce pleasure and leisure from work, so that the pleasure becomes vapid and the work drudgery. Unless I am to live far out in the country, give me a place where a grocery, a laundry, a smithy, and a pub are within easy walking distance.

We need to return to an older “aesthetic standard of the good life” that our ancestors might have recognized. And not recognized in a purely nostalgic sense, but recognized as a properly timeless standard of the good life—as in, an experience of daily life anchored in the good, the true, and the beautiful in big and little ways.